Intercessory Prayer by liaoqinmei


									                                    Intercessory Prayer
                                                  No. 1049
                              A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Morning,
                                            May 5th, 1872,
                                                By C. H. Spurgeon,
                               At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

                              “For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities,”
                                                 Psalm 141:6

THIS is a very difficult passage in the original, and it is hard to fix its
meaning with absolute certainty. However, it is no business of mine, at this
present, to go into the various interpretations which have been given, for I
am aiming at something else; I am, for my immediate purpose, quite
content with the authorised version. The meaning given to the passage by
our translators is this, David says, although the righteous man should
rebuke him most sternly so as to smite his conscience, and bring before him
his wrong-doing, and even though he should do this with considerable
severity, yet he would not be displeased with him, but would love him all
the better, and be thankful to him for having acted so faithfully, and he
would prove his love by continuing to pray for his reprover, should the
good man at any time be overtaken by calamity. David would always give
his honest censor a warm place in his prayers.
Now, if this be the meaning, and I think it is, it shows us that David was in
the habit of praying for the saints; for if he had not been, he would not have
said that even in their calamities his prayers should go up for them. He had
made it his daily custom to bring before his God in his private prayers the
names of God’s righteous ones, or else, I say, he would not have made the
remark that even if some of them should rebuke him and reprove him
sternly, he still would continue to pray for them.
Our subject this morning shall be the high duty of intercession, a duty all
too little regarded in these days. We shall speak upon it, first, as the text.316
would lead us to do, in reference to saints, and, secondly, we shall urge it
upon you on behalf of sinners.
I. First, then, we have to speak upon the duty of INTERCESSORY FOR THE
To arrange our thoughts in some order we will take for our first keynote
the word obligation. It is incumbent upon every child of God to pray for
the rest of the sacred family. Doth not nature itself teach us this? I mean
not the old nature, but the new nature created within us by the Holy Spirit.
Did you not find, my brethren, as soon as you were yourselves possessors
of divine life, that you began without any exhortation to pray for others?
Your very first believing cries began with “Our father which art in heaven,”
and so included others besides yourself. Among the earliest prayers which
a renewed heart offers will be one for the man through whose agency it
was brought to Jesus. No new convert forgets to pray for the minister who
was the instrument of his conversion. The newly delivered soul also pleads
for others who are still in the deplorable condition from which grace has
enabled it to escape. “Thou hast brought my soul out of prison, Lord, set
my fellow-captives free. In thy lovingkindness enable others to taste the
sweetness of thy salvation.” Then the Christian people who have at any
time conversed with the convert, who have ministered to his comfort or
instruction, will be sure to obtain a share in his prayers, for a renewed heart
is a tenderly grateful heart, and a man is not born again from above who
feels no thankfulness to earnest friends below. Set a bird free from a cage,
and it will sing you its thanks as it speeds forth into the air, even thus, if
you are enabled to open the prison doors of bandaged spirits, they will
repay your loving efforts with prayer.
I say it is a natural instinct of the new-born believer to begin to intercede
for others, and this instinct continues with him throughout life. It is one of
the things that he must do, it is a pleasure to him to do it, it would be
impossible for him utterly to cease from it, for the indwelling Spirit in his
bosom maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And, brethren, as it is an instinct of the heaven born nature, so it is a law of
the elect household. The saints in their due order may be described as
“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching
whereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Every
believer has a watchman’s place appointed him in the matter of prayer, and
he is bound not to be silent, but to give the Lord no rest till he establish.317
and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. We are all equally bound to pray
for the peace of Jerusalem, and our prosperity is made to hinge upon it.
The new commandment which the Lord has given us, in which he bids us
“love one another,” necessitates our praying for each other. How shall a
man claim that he loves his brother if he never intercedes with God for
him? Can I live continually with my fellow-believers and see their sorrows,
and never cry to God on their behalf? Can I observe their poverty, their
tribulation, their temptation, their heaviness of heart, and yet forget them in
my supplications? Can I see their work of faith and labor of love, and never
implore a blessing upon them? Can I wrap up myself within myself, and be
indifferent to the case of those who are my brethren in Christ Jesus?
Impossible. I must belong to some other family than that of God, for in the
family of love, common sympathy leads to constant intercession. God
forbid that we should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for our
brethren. Every bee in the hive of the church should bring in its own share
of this honey to the common store. As all the rootlets of a tree traverse the
earth of nutriment, and all suck in provision for the benefit of all, so should
each believer with open mouth of prayer search out and drink in spiritual
blessings for the benefit of the whole church. Forget not then, my brethren,
the sweet obligation under which you are laid by your relationship to the
saints, and their ever blessed Lord.
Moreover, beloved, we recognize a vital union among believers, a oneness
of a very intimate kind. We are not barely brethren, but we are “members
of the same body.” Christ is the head of his mystical body the church, and
we are all members of his body. Now, as in the human frame each separate
limb, member, organ, vein, nerve, is needful to the whole, so in the church
each believer is necessary to the rest, and the rest are needful to him. We
may not be able to show what particular mischief would be done to the arm
by an injury to the knee, yet, rest assured there would be a sympathetic
suffering. No single cell or sac within the whole system can be out of order
without in some degree affecting all the rest of the frame. Even so, God
has made us dependent upon one another, far more than we imagine. In the
church-unity every man contributes to the health or to the disease of the
whole corporation, nor can he avoid so doing. No man liveth to himself in
the church of God, and no man dieth to himself. When a believer grows in
grace, he is enriched not for himself alone, the Christian community has
increased its spiritual wealth by his gains. When, on the other hand, a man
declines in divine things, and so becomes poor and feeble, it is not to.318
himself alone that the injury occurreth, but in a measure the church is
impoverished, weakened, and injured. O brethren, since this is the case, let
us discharge abundantly the duties which we owe to the body of which we
form apart; and in the delightful exercise of supplication let us abound
more and more. Intercession should throb like a pulse through the whole
body, causing every living member to feel the sacred impulse. Intercession
is one of the least things which we can do, and yet it is one of the greatest:
let us not be slack in it. A prayerless church member is a hinderance, he is
in the body like a rotting bone, or a decayed tooth, and, ere long, since he
does not contribute to the benefit of his brethren, he will become a danger
and a sorrow to them. Brethren, let it not be so with any one of you.
Besides, brethren, if an argument were needed to touch our hearts, it is not
far to find. We ourselves owe much to the prayers of others. Many
Christians can trace their conversion to their mother’s prayers which went
up to heaven for them, when as yet their infant tongues could not
pronounce the Savior’s name. A mother brought them to Jesus and
besought him to lay his hands on them and bless them. Many of you owe
your conversion to the pleadings of Sabbath-school teachers, or to the
supplications of ministers, or to earnest individual Christians who were led
to intercede for you. Now, if by the way of prayer you have received a
blessing, show your gratitude by praying for others. Endeavor to confer the
blessing in the same way as you have received it. For my own self
personally, I say this morning that no man can do me a truer kindness in
this world than to pray for me. I reckon, brethren, that the more of prayers
I have the wealthier I am in real riches, in that form of personal estate
which is better that gold and silver. An old Puritan remarks that when a
man thrives in business, he sets many hands to work for him, and, saith he,
when a man grows in usefulness he brings many souls to pray for him, and
so his business is carried on. The greater the expenditure of grace in the
case of the Lord’s servant, the more he needs intercessory help from all his
brethren and sisters that he may be able to carry on his work under the
divine blessing. I am under bonds, my brethren, to pray for you, since I
know that many of you continually besiege the throne of grace on my
behalf. I put the argument, therefore, to you, if you have received blessings
through the intercession of saints, would you not be ungrateful indeed if
you did not intercede for others in return? Did a mother’s prayers bring
you to Christ? Then, dear young mother, send up your entreaties to the
Lord for your dear little one. Did a father’s supplications lead to your.319
salvation? Then, young man, uphold thy father with thy constant prayers,
and so enrich his latter days. Freely ye have received, freely give. The soil
fertilised by the dew gives back its harvest, do thou also make a fair return
to the church which has been the channel of blessing to thee. It is not,
therefore, a matter of choice with us, to-day, whether we shall pray for our
brethren in Christ or not. Beloved brethren, you are not alive unto God,
you have not the instincts of the new life if you do not intercede for the
household of faith. You have not the love which is of God, which is the
sure sign of regeneration, if you forget intercession: you are unmindful of
the debt you owe, and you are acting unworthily of your professed union
with the church of Christ, if intercession be neglected by you. As with a
trumpet call, I would arouse you, my brethren and sisters, to effectual
earnest prayer for the family of the living God.
Let us change our watch-word now from obligation to honor. What an
honor it is to be permitted to pray for the saints! For, observe, this brings
us into the closest conceivable fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ
himself. We cannot assist in providing an atonement for human sin: “It is
finished” said the Savior, and finished it is. In that work we can have no
fellowship except as we receive of its results, for “He hath trodden the
wine press alone, and of the people there was none with him.” In preaching
the gospel to-day, we are exercising an office in which our Lord Jesus has
now no share: the Holy Spirit helpeth us, but the man Christ Jesus is at the
right hand of the Father, and his voice is not heard proclaiming the glad
tidings. Therefore, in some respects, we have diverse occupations and
exercise different offices, but, in the business of intercession we are one: at
this very moment, our Lord is pleading before the throne, and when we
intercede for his people we are doing precisely the same. We, in praying for
the saints, have actual present fellowship with our great High Priest who
intercedes within the veil. I say again, if I preach to-day, Christ is not
preaching, but if I pray, my voice harmonizes with his. If I pray for the
brethren, I remember that he stands before the throne of glory with the
breastplate on, having the names of all his chosen glittering there upon its
precious stones. Is it not then a delightful thing to be partakers with the
Son of God in the ministry of intercession? In this service he hath made us
priests unto our God. He is the great Angel, with the golden censor, and
the smoke of the incense which he offers ascends with the prayers of the
saints before the Lord. Beloved, you would be conformed in service to the.320
Lord Jesus, the opportunity is ready to your hand; be much in intercession
for the saints.
And, what an honor it is that we, who so lately were beggars for ourselves
at mercy’s door, are now received so much into royal favor that we may
venture to speak a word in the king’s ear for others. It was sovereign
mercy which allowed Us to say, “Have mercy upon me!” but what
condescension is this which has taken us into such nearness with itself that
now we can come to the Lord, and say, “I would fain speak a word with
thee for a brother of mine: I would venture to ask bounties at thy hands,
my Father, for a sister who needs compassion.” See, my brethren, how
eminently you are promoted, you are ordained to the high office of “the
king’s remembrancers,” to enquire of him concerning the good things of
his covenant. You are constituted royal almoners for the lying of kings, he
sets before you his open exchequer and bids you ask what you will. O
priceless grace; if thou, O believer, knowest how to ask by faith, thou
mayest hand out to thy brethren wealth more precious than the gold of
Ophir; for intercession is the key of the ivory palaces wherein are contained
the boundless treasures of God. Saints in intercession reach a place where
angels cannot stand. Those holy beings rejoice over penitent sinners, but
we do not read of their being admitted as suppliants for the saints. Yet we,
imperfect as we are, have this favor, we are permitted to open our mouth
before the Lord for the sick and for the tried, for the troubled and for the
downcast, with the assurance that whatsoever we shall ask in prayer
believing we shall receive. In this thing great honor is put upon you.
Brethren, avail yourselves of his honor. I know very well if Her Majesty
should give a permission to any one of you to call at the palace, and to ask
what you would for your friends, you would not neglect the opportunity.
Why, in these days, if a man thinks he has the ear of a member of
Parliament, or somebody in power, it is not often that he neglects the
opportunity of speaking for his cousin or his son who desires an office,
where there is little to do and much to receive. All over the world place-hunters
are in abundance, men of influence, having the ear of the
authorities, are always pressed to make all possible use thereof. And yet, I
have to stand here this morning and urge you, dear brethren, who have the
ear of God, to exercise your choice prerogative. You have promises from
God of the granting of your request, and many are saying, “I would be
spoken for unto the king,” pray be not slow to help. Use the liberty which
your Prince has given you and plead for your brethren. If there be no other.321
who needs your prayers, I eagerly ask for a place in them. “Brethren, pray
for us,” said an apostle, how much more may I say it. Having to minister
daily in holy things, our responsibilities and needs are very great, do not,
therefore, forget us when it is well with you. Say a kind thing unto the
Prince for his servants and ask him to grant us more of his grace.
We will change the word now from honor to excellence. Intercessory
prayer is a most excellent thing; for first, it benefits those who use it. I
know you desire, beloved, to be of real service in the church of God. I trust
we have no members of this church who are satisfied to have their names in
the book, and to attend services, and to feel that all is done when this is
done. No, you wish to be really helpful and to bring glory to God. Well,
then, I urge upon you for this end the excellence of intercessory prayer.
First, brethren, it will suggest to you to know your brethren. You cannot
pray well for those you know nothing about. You will not, therefore, go in
and out of the assembly not knowing the person who sits next to you in the
pew, but you will enquire how the brethren fare, and, when you hear of any
one being in distress of mind, or body, or estate, you will be ready to take
notice of that, in order that you may offer prayer on his account, and then
there will be in you a sympathetic knowledge of your brethren. Paul tells us
to know them that labor among us and are over us in the Lord! and I wish
all church members did know more of their pastor’s struggles, and
sorrows, and joys, that they might have more sympathy with him, and the
same is true of the rest of the brethren; the more you know and sympathise
the better will your prayer be, and because you will need to know, in order
to intercede; therefore, I call intercession an excellent exercise.
Earnest intercession will be sure to bring love with it. I do not believe you
can hate a man for whom you habitually pray. If you dislike any brother
Christian, pray for him doubly, not only for his sake, but for your own, that
you may be cured of prejudice and saved from all unkind feeling.
Remember the old story of the man who waited on his pastor to tell him
that he could not enjoy his preaching. The minister wisely said, “My dear
brother, before we talk that matter over, let us pray together,” and, after
they had both prayed, the complainant found he had nothing to say except
to confess that he himself had been very negligent in prayer for his pastor,
and he laid his not profiting to that account. I ascribe want of brotherly
love to the decline of intercessory prayer. Pray for one another earnestly,
habitually, fervently, and you will knit your hearts together in love as the.322
heart of one man. This is the cement of fair colors in which the stones of
the church should be laid if they are to be compact together.
Dear brethren, when you pray for one another, not only will your sympathy
and love grow, but you will have kinder judgments concerning one
another; we always judge leniently those for whom we intercede. If a
talebearer represents my brother in a very black light, my love makes me
feel sure that he is mistaken. Did I not pray for him this morning, and how
can I hear him condemned? If I am compelled to believe that he is guilty I
am very sorry, but I will not be angry with him, but will pray the Lord to
forgive and restore him, remembering myself also lest I be tempted. We
think our children beautiful because they are our own, and have a place in
our heart, and in the same way we are quick to perceive any admirable
traits of character which may exist in those for whom we intercede; and we
are willing to suggest extenuations for the failings of their dispositions.
Prayer is a wondrous blender of hearts and a mighty creator of love.
Intercessory prayer is of much efficacy in fostering watchfulness. Suppose
that you, as a member of this church, are brought into contact with
backsliders and are led to seek their restoration, your prayers for their
recovery will naturally lead you also to pray, “Lord, preserve me from this
evil, keep me from backsliding, preserve me from becoming cold and
indifferent as these brethren have done.” If we meet with professed
Christians who have fallen into drunkenness, and are earnest in pleading
with the Lord to rescue them from that horrible ditch, our own souls are
made to loathe the sin and to stand upon its watch tower against it. If we
perceive that two brethren have disagreed and cannot be brought into a
state of peace, if we pray to God that unity may be restored between them,
we are led also to ask that we may be of a gentle and quiet spirit, that we
may not cause strife, and that if we have caused it at any time we may be
prepared to confess the wrong and amend it. Thus the objects of our
prayerful solicitude become beacons to us. If you observe others with
captious eye, censure them eagerly, and go from house to house to spread
the ill-savor industriously, your unhallowed course of action will breed
self-righteousness in yourself; but, if you go to the Lord with sorrow about
all misdeeds of brethren, and importunately seek the restoration of the
erring, you will foster in your own heart tenderness of feeling and
watchfulness against sin. Those who supplicate much for others will
frequently find on their own lips the prayer, “Search me, O God, and try.323
me, and know my ways, see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me
in the way everlasting.”
I cannot stay to tell you what other excellent things there are wrapped up
in this exercise of intercession, but I am persuaded it is both one of the
holiest, healthiest, and most heavenly exercises in which a devout man can
possibly be occupied.
Do you not think, dear brethren, that if we were each one required upon
the spot to give an account of his attention to this excellent duty! we
should most of us need to be ashamed? May I venture to put the question
to every Christian here, have you rendered to God and his church your fair
proportion of intercessory prayer? We have not interceded too much, I am
certain, for of this salt it may be said, “salt without prescribing how much.”
No man prays too much for his fellowman. Have we prayed enough? I give
you space, and make a pause, in which you may put the question. I will
give you my own answer. I am clear as to my duty to this church in the
matter of preaching, for I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of
God. If I could learn to preach better I would gladly do so. I am conscious
of my failures, but I have served you heartily and faithfully before God in
this pulpit. But I cannot say so of my intercessions. I have many
confessions to make to God of shortcomings in that department, and I am
afraid that a great number of my fellow-workers here must plead guilty to
the same indictment. You have never missed your class on Sunday
afternoon yet, you are always at your work in time, with the Scripture-lesson
well studied; that is right, but, dear brother, do you always pray the
lesson into your soul? Dear sister, have you made a habit of praying for the
girls under your care, one by one, with intense fervor? I do not accuse, but
I ask you to look into your own soul, for the fault is not a trivial one, but
causes ourselves and the church no little damage. Elders and deacons of
this church, are you clear in the matter of intercession? Some men among
us may be without blame in this business, but I am afraid that the most of
us have attended to other duties far beyond the proportion in which we
have attended to this. We have prayed in public at the prayer-meetings, and
we have not forgotten supplication for the saints at the family altar, neither,
I trust, is it unknown in our private devotions; but, still, if we had prayed
for our brethren ten times as much, or even a hundred times as much, we
should not have gone too far. We stand up sometimes on the public
platform, and we charge the church of God with growing cold; let us ask
ourselves the question, have we by our prayers added to her heat? Have we.324
pleaded for her revival? We find fault with the Missionary Societies
because such slender results are apparent. Do we pray for missions as we
should? I hear a mournful complaint about the present and rising race of
preachers: have we interceded for students, and for pastors, as we should?
I hear people speak of Christians as either worldly, superficial or proud.
Have you prayed them out of their worldliness and pride? May it not be
that you would have done far better if you had prayed for them than found
fault with them? Ay, and may not the errors you see in them be, in a
considerable measure, traceable to the neglect of the office of intercession
by yourself?
Oh, let us have done with murmurings and complainings, criticisms and
finding fault, and take the whole of it up to the mercyseat, for if half the
breath that is vainly spent in censorious complaints were turned into
intercession, there would be much more holiness in the church.
Now, I must come to the text again while I give you another word, that is
extent. David says in the text, “Yet my prayer also shall be in their
calamities” and his meaning is this, if any of the saints of God should by
their fidelity to his soul displease him, he would nevertheless pray for them.
Brethren, we are not to confine our prayers to those who please us in their
mode of addressing us, but we are to pray lovingly for those who are too
sharp, too harsh, too cutting in their remarks. Suppose they should be so
severe as to grieve our spirits, suppose their rebukes appear to be uncalled
for, injurious and unjust, we are still bound to pray for them. David, in the
text, seems to say this, let the righteous do what they might with him, he
would still pray for them in their calamities; and I urge you, my brethren, if
there be any member of this church who has treated you unkindly, revenge
yourself upon him by loving him ten times more than ever you did, and
praying for him more constantly and more earnestly. If some brother has
crushed your spirit and wounded you, so that to think of him causes you
pain, never mind, the best cure for the wound is to go to God in prayer and
pour out your soul for him; ask the Lord to give him a great blessing and
to make him a better Christian, to fill him full of divine love; and, then,
when you see him improved, you will either come to think that you made a
mistake in judging what he said, and took wrongly what he meant to do
you good, or else you will find that he will come to you and will say, “I
was in the wrong, my brother,” or, if he does not confess that in words, he
will by extra kindness to you acknowledge it in his deeds..325
And, brethren, if ever we find a fellow-Christian in a calamity, then we are
to pray for him doubly. Men of the world leave their companions when
they get into trouble, as the herd leave the wounded deer. We have many
friends when all goes well, we have very few when the evil days are
lowering. But, with Christians it should not be so, we should be faithful
friends; we ought to be more kind to those who become poor than we are
to others; and, we meet with a fellow-Christian who has lost his comfort,
and is desponding, though his society may not be very pleasant, but may
even have a depressing influence upon ourselves, we should pray for him
more, and try to lift him out of the Slough of Despond. Especially if a
brother in Christ should be slandered we are bound to stand by him. Too
many follow the bad habit of getting right out of the way of a man who is
traduced. Somebody has thrown a handful of mud at a professed Christian:
let us clear the coast, for the mud may light upon us too. So say cowards,
but so say not we. No, brother, if you belong to the army of Immanuel, and
our persecuted brother has done no wrong, let us stand or fall by him. Let
us never desert a comrade. If the world says, “Down with him! down with
him! down with him!” we will rush like the old Greek hero to the rescue,
and hold our shield over the fallen one, fighting for him till he can get up
again; for one of these days we may be down too, and we may want a
brother soldier to cover us from the enemy. Let us pray our brethren out of
their troubles and not desert them, and if that prayer should be long before
it gets an answer, let us persevere in importunity, saying with David, “Yet
my prayer shall be in their calamities.”
I shall say no more upon this matter of intercession for the saints, but shall
leave it before the eternal throne, and with your own consciences. I
beseech you, unless ye be traitors to Christ, if ye be members of the true
unity, if your souls are knit together by the Holy Ghost, wrestle much for
one another, and do not let the covenant-angel go till a blessing shall come
to the whole house of God, and thence flow into the world at large.
II. Now, secondly, the high office of intercession FOR SINNERS. Upon this
I shall speak briefly, but, I trust, earnestly. As a church we have a crown,
and for many years we have held it; but, I would use the language of
Christ, in the Book of the Revelation, when speaking to one of the
churches, he says, “Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
Now, what has been our crown as a church? It has not been our wealth, for
in that we do not excel. It has not been our learning, we do not make any
show of it. It has not been our tasteful services, the beauty of our music,.326
and the sweetness of our chanting. No, we do not care about such things,
but cultivate simplicity. Our crown has been this one thing, that if there has
been a church in Christendom which has given itself to winning souls, this
church has done so. Our ministry has aimed always at this, the plucking of
the brands from burning, the bringing of sinners out of darkness into
marvellous light; and, I do you nothing but simple justice, my brethren,
when I say, that by far the larger part of this church is really alive for soul-winning.
It does my heart good to meet with divers knots of brethren
among you who everywhere about this city are working away
unostentatiously but successfully in bringing souls to Christ. I hope it
always will be so. Hold fast, O church, what thou hast, that no man take
thy crown. Let it always be our joy and glory that God gives us spiritual
children, and souls are born to him. Now, we desire to do this, and I am
sure we do, we must look more to intercession for the souls of the
Pray first, for this is the most essential thing to do. What can you and I
alone do in the conversion of a man? We cannot chance his heart: we
cannot put life into him — we might as well think to create a soul within
the ribs of death. It is God’s work to regenerate souls. What then? if I am
to be his instrument in doing it, my very first action must be to fall on my
knees and pray, “O God, work with me.” You are going to your Sunday
school this afternoon, or you are off to your street preaching; now, if you
could do the work, I would not urge you to waste time in asking God to
do what you could do alone, but, as you are utterly powerless to win a
single soul to Jesus without the Spirit of God, let your first action be to
pray, “O power divine, come and clothe me! O tongue of fire, be given to
me; and sacred, rushing, mighty wind, come thou forth to breathe life upon
dead souls!” Prayer is the most essential thing in turning sinners from the
error of their ways.
Then, intercessory prayer will fit you for becoming God’s instrument. If I
pray for a person’s conversion, especially if I single out some individual,
then my heart gets warmed into love to that individual; as I think over his
position and condition in prayer. Very well, that instructs me, and helps me
to deal out the proper word to him when I come near to him. I am like a
surgeon, who, coming to a case where he has to use the lances, knows
exactly where every bone is, and also what part has been injured. My
prayer has given me a diagnosis of the man’s state. I have looked it
through and considered it in my petitions, and when I come practically to.327
work upon him, I shall be wise by the Spirit of God to do the right thing,
and in the right way. If we wished to send a man to college to make him a
good helper to troubled hearts, we should send him to the college of all-prayer,
for intercession is the mode to become wise in winning souls.
And, brethren, prayer will have this effect upon you, that you will go to
work hopefully. It is a very horrible thing to think of persons being buried
alive, put underground by their friends in their coffins while yet there was
breath in their bodies. Let us mind that we never bury a soul alive; — I am
afraid we are in the habit of doing it. We judge of such an one that he will
never be converted, it is a case where all effort would be useless. We think
of another person that he is so abandoned, we may very well give him up
and attend to more hopeful cases. In all this we are wrong, since we have
no right to sign a soul’s death-warrant, or to say to the grace of God
“hitherto canst thou come but no further.” Believe that as long as a man
lives in this world there are possibilities of grace for him. Take him in your
arms before God in prayer, and when you begin to pray for him you will
feel that there is hope, and you will afterwards converse with him in a
hopeful and perhaps believing manner. I do not believe a man was ever
saved by another one talking to him in a tone of despair, but the cheerful
utterance of hopeful love wins its way. Believe that the hard heart may be
broken, the blasphemer’s tongue cleansed, the persecutor’s mind changed,
and that the rebel may yet obey Christ crucified, and become a bright star
in the heaven of God. Dear brethren, I pray you then since the power is of
God, and since intercession will make you fit to be used by God, and since
also it will give you great hopefulness with regard to those you deal with,
exercise yourselves much more than ever in intercessory prayer.
This is a work in which all of you can aid. If I came to you this morning
and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Lord’s cause requires money,” I know,
from long experience, that you would do your best; but there are some
who would be compelled to reply, “The necessities of my family do not
permit my doing anything in that direction.” But, when we ask for
intercession, no Christian can say, “I cannot plead with God.” If I were to
press upon you at this moment the want of more public preaching, many of
my congregation would be justly excused, for they are slow of speech and
without gifts of utterance. But, O brethren and sisters, when it comes to
interceding you can all fulfill the office, and by so doing you can have a
share in all the great works of the church. I have heard of a holy woman
who used to say, “I cannot preach but I can help my minister to do it by my.328
prayers; therefore, whenever I see him come into the pulpit, I will pray that
God will bless his word, and so I shall have a share in what he does.” When
you hear of a missionary working anywhere abroad pray for him, and then
you will become his co-worker. Beloved, some of you are often sickly in
body, and during the weary night you get but little sleep, — do you know
why the Lord keeps you awake? It is that while others of us are sleeping
you may be praying for us. God must have some to keep the night watches;
he determines that a guard of prayer shall be set around his church all day
and all night long, — you are the sentries of the night-watches. You cannot
do anything else, but you can pray, and by praying you can obtain a share
in the noblest works of the church.
Now mark, David by implication tells us that some of those we pray for
may perhaps not care for our prayers, and they may come into great
calamities through their sins; then is our time when we should be yet more
earnest in intercession for them. If I have spoken to an ungodly man for
many years, and he has ridiculed all I have said, then I will resolve within
myself, “I will never leave off praying for him. Perhaps, one of these days I
shall find him sick, and then he will ask for the prayers he now rejects.
Perhaps, I shall find him with a broken heart, and then the words he now
jests at will be very sweet to his taste.” You who seek after souls must
know how to keep up the chase: those who are short of breath in soul-winning
will never be successful. Follow them up! follow them up! follow
them to the gates of the grave. If they are not saved after twenty years of
prayer, follow them up to the gates of hell! If they once pass those gates
your prayers are unallowable and unavailing, but to the very verge of the
infernal pit follow then, follow them with your prayers. If they will not hear
you speak, they cannot prevent your praying. Do they jest at your
exhortations? They cannot disturb you at your prayers, for they do not
know when you offer them. Are they far away so that you cannot reach
them? Your prayers can reach them; you can still bless them. Have they
declared that they will never listen to you again, nor see your face? Never
mind, God has a voice which they must hear — speak you to him, and he
will make them feel. Though they now treat you despitefully, rendering evil
for your good, follow them, follow them, follow them with your prayers;
never let them perish for want of your supplications.
The time may come when those who have been longest in yielding their
hearts to Christ will repay us a thousand-fold for all the efforts and
supplications we may put forth. I have sometimes seen a great sinner, when.329
he is saved, become of as much use as twenty ordinary converts, for in
proportion as he was hard to win, he has become useful when won. We do
not expect that we shall get Sauls every day made into Pauls, but when it is
so, then the church is rich indeed, for one Paul is worth a thousand
ordinary believers. These deep sea pearls are precious. These difficult cases
may turn out to be Pauls; therefore, be instant in season and out of season,
praying for them till they be brought to Christ.
The one thing I want this morning is that my dear brothers and sisters in
Christ should pledge themselves to be more importunate in prayer for
sinners all around us. Like Abraham, a great city is before us, let us plead
for it; like Moses, we dwell among a sinful people, let us stand in the gap
for them. I charge every member of this church, by his fealty to God, if
indeed he be not a liar in the profession that he has made, to pray
importunately for the ungodly, that they may be brought to Jesus. Plead
with Jehovah, plead; he loves your prayers; your intercessions are like the
sweet incense upon the golden altar. Plead with him, and you shall live to
see a reward for your pleadings in the conversion of the sons of men. Go
home and make your children the special objects of this afternoon’s cries
implore the Lord to save your husbands or your wives, your kinsfolk, and
your nearest neighbors. Implore a blessing upon the seat-holders and
hearers of this congregation who remain unregenerate; then take your
streets, take the district in which you live, and entreat a gracious visitation
— you shall never lack for persons to pray for, therefore, continue in
supplication. It was but a few days ago I saw four husbands who were
converted to God, but their wives were left outside the church, and those
four brethren, probably all here this morning, met together in prayer for
their wives’ conversion, and on the first communion Sabbath of last month
the four wives were brought in in answer to the prayers of the four
husbands. Anything is possible, everything is possible to him that believeth.
God help us to believe and to intercede, and then may be send his
benediction, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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